Tuesday, December 30, 2008

King of Cayman Islands thanks Bush for Wall St. Bailout

The Cayman Islands formally thanked the United States for the first installment of the $350 billion Wall Street bailout.

"Just about all that money ended up in our banks, Mon," said king of the Caymen Islands and president of the Third National Bank of Post Office Box 7, Haile Ken Lay Selassie.

The Cayman Islands are notorious for their secret bank accounts used to escape individual and corporate taxes and launder drug money to make it available to banks and Wall St.

"We got about $348 billion. Hank Paulson, and the AIG and the Goldman Sachs, or whoever those guys are, they said they need the other two for shipping and handling--shipping coke and handling male prostitutes that do that nasty shit they like from their fraternity initiations. Mon, those guys are fucked up, but they make us so rich, we don't know what to do with all the money. I got a solid gold bidet to wash the shit off me ass so I don't even have to wipe myself. Even my paperboy, he drive a Rolls Royce, and our homeless can afford to hire advertising companies to beg for them."

The bailout money will be used to actually expand the land mass of the Cayman Island. "We gonna bale up that bale out money and throw it in the ocean to make the island bigger, so we put some more PO boxes on it."

The King of the Cayman Islands bears a striking resemblance to Enron CEO Ken Lay who died suddenly after being sentenced to prison for his business practices. Some suspected he faked his death and was hiding out in one of the corporate-criminal friendly states like Seychelles, Saudi Arabia, or the Cayman Islands.

"Mon, I aint no Ken Lay, I got some white in me, so maybe we are cousins or some shit like that. But I'm no way Ken Lay with a bad dreadlock wig and dyed skin."

What makes the resemblance even more odd is that the king's middle name is "Ken Lay."

He has a quick explanation for that. "Look, how am going to know when someone is talking to me when half the people in the islands is named Haile Selassie or Bob Marley something? So I put my real name in the middle so people still call me "Kenny Boy,"or the "Easy Lay," but no feds can find me with the Selassie, not that they are looking so hard with my friend the Lucky Tard as president."

As president of the Third National Bank of Post Office Box 7, the king is thought to have stewardship of 90% of the money that disappeared from the collapse of Enron, 70% of the money from the S& L crisis in the 80's, and the majority of the heroin income from Afghanistan and coca income from Columbia.

"I don't know why anyone would want to be a CEO of some fancy business in the US and have to wear a tie and all that shit," the king said. "I make a lot more money here smoking blunts in me flip flops and driving me golf cart to collect the checks from the mailboxes every day. Even club fed wouldn't have been this nice."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wall St. Bailout proves Orwell right: financial elite, you are OBSOLETE!

Or a vestigial limb that evolution will eventually remove.

As we have seen in the myriad scams and schemes that led to the bailout, they do nothing productive but instead, drain wealth from those who know how to make things and provide services, and even from taxpayers with wars to seize assets for them and subsidies to prop up their poorly run businesses.

Orwell goes even farther and says that modern technology has the means to produce enough wealth to give a comfortable lifestyle to everyone on earth with fairly minimal work. But that would endanger the elite, who would begin to look superfluous, so the excess wealth must be destroyed--spent on weapons that make no one's life easier and used to destroy other weapons, people, and things, which in turn absorbs more wealth to repair.

We see this most clearly in the United States. We can't afford to pay decent salaries to workers because the money must all go to execs and dividends. We can't afford to have decent government run schools or health care because the rich must not be taxed more than they want to be and more must be spent on our military than all other countries combined--never mind that all the yahoos with hunting rifles and shotguns would be more than enough to give anyone stupid enough to invade us a serious headache.

America and the world are at a cross-roads: do we continue to run our world into the ground and kill each other so that a handful of people can control more money than their family could spend in twenty generations or do we tell those people ENOUGH? Would it really hurt them to only have enough excess wealth for three or four generations?

Would it hurt them to make them treat the rest of us like members of the human family instead of like cattle they can milk, slaughter, or sell for their own enrichment?

This is what Orwell said about the wealthy in the modern world in 1984:

The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. At present, when few human beings even have enough to eat, this problem is obviously not urgent, and it might not have become so, even if no artificial processes of destruction had been at work. The world of today is a bare, hungry, dilapidated place compared with the world that existed before 1914, and still more so if compared with the imaginary future to which the people of that period looked forward. In the early twentieth century, the vision of a future society unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly, and efficient -- a glittering antiseptic world of glass and steel and snow-white concrete -- was part of the consciousness of nearly every literate person. Science and technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on developing. This failed to happen, partly because of the impoverishment caused by a long series of wars and revolutions, partly because scientific and technical progress depended on the empirical habit of thought, which could not survive in a strictly regimented society. As a whole the world is more primitive today than it was fifty years ago. Certain backward areas have advanced, and various devices, always in some way connected with warfare and police espionage, have been developed, but experiment and invention have largely stopped, and the ravages of the atomic war of the nineteen-fifties have never been fully repaired. Nevertheless the dangers inherent in the machine are still there. From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. And in fact, without being used for any such purpose, but by a sort of automatic process -- by producing wealth which it was sometimes impossible not to distribute -- the machine did raise the living standards of the average humand being very greatly over a period of about fifty years at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.

But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction -- indeed, in some sense was the destruction -- of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared.
If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away.


Was the bailout "crisis" a fraud?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pry the cold, dead fingers of the GOP off our public schools

It's very odd that the Democratic leadership waited until after the GOP foreign and economic policy had all the positive effects of a 50 megaton nuke before they said those ideas MAYBE don't work.

I don't know what a comparable implosion would look like in public education, but will it take an equal decimation before Democrats say Republicans either don't know what the fuck they are talking about when it comes to education or that they are intentionally trying to destroy it?

The cornerstone of the GOP attack is the endless cycle of testing. If the same approach was used in health care, a nurse would come take your temperature every fifteen minutes, the doctor would be given no money to treat you, and if you didn't get well, the doctor and nurse would be fired and you would probably die.

The "teach to the test'' nonsense is also a form of micromanaging that tends to chase smart, creative people out of the public schools. Why bother to get a degree when they just want someone who can read a script like the guide on a tour bus?

Their other brilliant idea, merit pay, sounds great to anyone who has never worked in education. In some jobs, like sales, being paid on commission makes sense, but for teachers, there are too many variables: a very good teacher might be given or even ask for the kids who need the most help and therefore make the least progress. Should that teacher be paid less than someone who takes on only average to above average kids?

Also, merit pay would mean administrators get to decide who gets rewarded for their work. Most administrators are shitty teachers who promoted themselves out of the classroom by taking a few night classes. Smart, creative teachers will not be good suck ups, nor will they stick around if that is what is required to be compensated for their jobs.

Probably the worst innovation of the right is treating education like a business. As we have seen this fall, corporations can't even run their BUSINESSES like a business. Why should we let then import that failed model to schools?

What is really galling is to see someone like Obama's pick for education secretary aping one of the ugliest tactics of business, mass layoffs, without realizing that when business does that, it has nothing to do with adjusting the quality of the product--it is a bookkeeping trick to goose the stock price.
If you layoff teachers en masse, people will not want to come work in your district because administrators will rightly be seen as arbitrary and malicious.

Wouldn't it be nice if Democrats in Congress and even the White House had the courage to get ahead of the curve instead of acquiescing to GOP scams until they explode, and THEN getting around to doing what's right?

If they had ever bothered to ask teachers what they need to succeed, they'd get some pretty simple answers, most of which wouldn't necessarily cost more money:
  • smaller classes sizes, and the more troubled the community, the smaller the classes.

  • more autonomy for teachers. If you want to attract and keep smart, creative people, give them room to work. If you overly-script and micromanage the job, eventually you will attract exactly the kind of people who are good at that: mindless automatons. That's not how I would describe the best teachers I had growing up, would you?

  • An effective system to deal with dangerous and disruptive students. If administrators limited themselves to this one function, they might actually help instead of hinder the education process. This is why private schools appear to be more effective than public ones--disruptive students can be ejected, and the threat of being permanently removed makes borderline kids behave.
  • Make sure most of the money makes it into the classroom, not district offices for layers and layers of worthless bureaucrats or into the pockets of politicians' cronies for software, building, and consulting contracts that teachers haven't asked for.
Will Democrats flush the steaming turd of GOP education reforms down the toilet BEFORE they drag down the public schools with them, like they did with foreign & economic policy?

Contact Obama at Change.gov
and tell him to dump the GOP education reforms and put students and teachers first, not corporate plunder.

If you are a teacher, and belong to the NEA or AFT, contact them and tell them to get way, way more hardline on these so-called "reforms."

If you are a teacher and NOT a member of your union, become one and make noise.

Monday, December 15, 2008

PALAST: Why is Obama considering GOP scammer for Secretary of Education?

Obama is considering Joel Klein for Secretary of Education. Klein has no background in education and fired teachers while wasting billions on software and "consultants" for the GOP-backed testing obsession after being appointed by Michael Bloomberg to run New York City schools.

Americans rejected failed Republican ideas on foreign policy, economics, and human rights when we elected Obama. It would be fair to assume that Republican ideas on education belong on the toilet of history as well.

I teach community college and my fiancee teaches middle school special education, and a choice like this would be demoralizing.

Why do Democrats tolerate the appointment of those who know nothing about education as superintendents, chancellors, and even secretary of education?

Even those with degrees in public administration seem to do about as much good as MBA's have done to Wall Street and American business in general. Their bean counting expertise is needed, but when they are not subordinate to those who actually know and care about the product, in our case education, they do exactly what they did to Enron, subprime mortgages, and the American auto industry. They cook the books to create the illusion of success while crippling the institution's ability to fulfill its actual function. In K-12 education, this is done with endless testing and accountability for teachers that amounts to a mountain of paperwork that takes longer to fill out than grading papers and writing lesson plans, rather than mandating smaller class sizes and providing effective ways to deal with students too unruly to be in regular classes or even be on the playground with other kids.

For those of us in higher education, this process is just beginning with nonsense about "student learning outcomes" that duplicate course objectives. Next will come the paperwork on how well you comply, standardized tests to grade your work, and standardized curriculum, sold by the politically well-connected.

If Obama appoints this guy as Secretary of Education, who Michael Bloomberg previously appointed to run New York schools, it will be an endorsement of continuing this attack on education rather than a repudiation.

Why not pick someone who is an excellent teacher, and make these bean counters their lieutenants instead of continuing to pick those more qualified to help Walmart figure out new ways to screw their employees?

This is worth contacting Obama and telling him we want real change, not a new face to sell an old scam:



Obama's "Way-to-Go, Brownie!" Moment?

by Greg Palast
for the Huffington Post

But here we go again. Trial balloons lofted in the Washington Post suggest President-elect Obama is about to select Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. If not Klein, then draft-choice number two is Arne Duncan, Obama's backyard basketball buddy in Chicago.

Klein, who lacks even six minutes experience in the field, was handed management of New York's schools by that political Jack-in-the-Box, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire mayor is one of those businessmen-turned-politicians who think lawyers and speculators can make school districts operate like businesses.

Klein has indeed run city schools like a business - if the business is General Motors. Klein has flopped. Half the city's kids don't graduate.

Klein is out of control. Not knowing a damn thing about education, rather than rely on those who actually work in the field (only two of his two dozen deputies have degrees in education), Klein pays high-priced consultants to tell him what to do. He's blown a third of a billion dollars on consultant "accountability" projects plus $80 million for an IBM computer data storage system that doesn't work.

What the heck was the $80 million junk computer software for? Testing. Klein is test crazy. He has swallowed hook, line and sinker George Bush's idea that testing students can replace teaching them. The madly expensive testing program and consultant-fee spree are paid for by yanking teachers from the classroom.

Ironically, though not surprisingly, test scores under Klein have flat-lined. Scores would have fallen lower, notes Jane Hirschmann, head of watchdog group Time Out From Testing, but Klein "moved the cut score," that is, lowered the level required to pass. In other words, Klein cheats on the tests.

Nevertheless, media poobahs have fallen in love with Klein, especially Republican pundits.The New York Times' David Brooks is championing Klein, hoping that media hype for Klein will push Obama to keep Bush schools policies in place, trumping the electorate's choice for change.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Neutering trust fund babies will not make America safer

Given the epic financial damage caused by Wall Street and the presidency of George W. Bush, scientists and security experts have been studying how to limit the damage trust fund babies can do to America but concluded that sterilizing them will not solve the problem.

"Trust fund babies were once thought to be a benign species because of their small numbers," said forensic psychologist Craig McCann. "However, recent history has shown otherwise, and we are beginning to understand why. They grow up without having to wonder how they will pay their rent or how they will afford to take their kids to the doctor. Their nagging subconscious awareness of their pampered incompetence leads them to act out with their money asself-appointed "masters of the universe" hoping to prove their self-worth by accumulating more than their distance ancestors who actually had to work to make the original family fortune."

"Unfortunately, they have no real knowledge of how to make anything or provide any service, so they fall back on bookkeeping tricks they learned in their MBA programs to create the illusion of success. While this creates paper profits, when coupled with their lack of empathy for those who actually must work to survive, the effect on the real economy is equivalent to an ebola outbreak or dropping an atom bomb."

McCann and his colleagues thought neutering trust fund babies, possible by posing as servants at a country club and sneaking some pruning shears into the sauna, or even using scuba gear to lay in wait at the bottom of the jacuzzis, would get the job done.

There was just one problem: most trust fund babies are not the children of their legal fathers.

"We stumbled upon it quite by accident while examining a blood sample we took from one we shot with a tranquilizer dart and tagged for observation," McCann said. "We had a reference sample from some fraternity oath his grandfather had to sign with his own blood. They were not related."

To insure that this wasn't a fluke, they did paternity tests on all the samples they had taken in the past and found that 91% were not related to their legal fathers.

The culture of trust fund babies offers clues to why: most of them join exclusive secret societies in college that have homoerotic, sado-masochistic initiation rituals. Although the percentage that are actually gay is probably the same as the rest of society, since these "men" could use their wealth to buy the finest prostitutes and are used to being fawned over by less wealthy women, the furtive, forbidden violation of those initiations holds a lasting appeal to them and becomes their primary sexual outlet.

Their wives are left to mate with golf and tennis pros or even gardeners.

"While this avenue has proven to be a dead end," McCann said, "We will not give up, anymore than we would give up if a giant meteor was heading toward the earth. The fate of the world could depend on work."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blago vs. Bush: who abused press more?

Illinois Governor Rob Blagovich, President George W. Bush

The press, federal prosecutors, and even fellow Democrats are rightly outraged at the blatantly corrupt behavior of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

What is odd is how muted that outrage was when similar crimes were committed by the Bush administration.

Consider some of the complaints against Blagojevich:

He wanted the Chicago Tribune to fire their editorial board for being critical of him and used their desire to purchase Wrigley Field as leverage. Bush went a little further in manipulating the press. When Robert Scheer, the most progressive columnist at the Los Angeles Times was fired after 30 years, his publisher told him Bush hated every word he wrote. Since the Los Angeles Times parent company, the Tribune Company had just bought a TV station in a market where they owned the newspapers, which violated anti-trust laws, they needed an FCC waiver from the Bush administration to keep their purchase.

Likewise, Blagovich had several reporters willing to plant news for him to advance his political ends. We know the Bush administration had conservative columnists on the payroll like Armstrong Williams, who they paid hundreds of thousands to promote Bush flawed No Child Left Behind legislation. That violated laws against the government using covert propaganda.

Bush even had an entirely fake reporter (who was actually a male prostitute) planted in the White House press corps to pitch softball questions when Bush didn't like the flak he was catching from the real reporters.

In one respect, Bush entirely outdid Blagovich. He bombed a news organization. Twice.

He bombed the Al Jazeera headquarters in Afghanistan and Iraq, which puzzled Al Jazeera since they had given their coordinates to the US military. Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera's main headquarters in Qatar, but Tony Blair had to explain to him that it was bad manners to bomb an ally who was hosting your troops. That wasn't a rumor, it was from leaked minutes of a meeting between the two leaders.

People in the US may not like Al Jazeera because of the criticisms they hear parroted on Fox News and the like, but in reality, they are more like the BBC than Fox's mindless right wing cheerleading--so much so that an American Marine officer who did press briefings for Al Jazeera and other news outlets decided to become a correspondent for the Middle Eastern network.

Congress made noise about some of these offenses, but ultimately did nothing, even after Democrats won the majority in both houses in 2006.

In fairness to those who have done nothing about Bush's crimes, unlike Blagovich, Bush controls who gets wiretapped and who doesn't, and his justice department is unlikely to investigate their boss or appoint special prosecutors to do so. As we have seen with Karl Rove and others, when Congress does issue subpoenas, the Bush administration simply ignores them. Maybe when Bush is out of office, Congress and the new Attorney General will do their jobs.

Maybe Rob Blagovich's offense is not the particular crime but that he did them primarily for himself. When Bush abused the press, although it did benefit his own political fortunes, it was all in service of his political patrons like Ken Lay, big oil, and the sociopathic trust fund babies that run Wall Street. No one goes after Bush because you don't kick the dog of someone you hope will give you a job.

I'll compare some of Blagovich and Bush's other sins next time.